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"I choose to say this police box was built for us, not because of us," Hunter says.

Vehicle accidents have been the one sore spot for Hunter. There have been quite a few since the Americans came to Shariki, where an average of 12 meters of snow falls each winter.

Most of the accidents involve simple mistakes, not paying attention or slipping on ice, Hunter says. Still, a couple of Japanese people have been injured and gomen money, traditional compensation and condolence money, has been paid.

"In all honesty, I have beat up the contractors a lot about making their people drive correctly," Hunter says while driving on a narrow two-lane road through rice paddies. The highway connects Shariki and Goshogawara, the closest place to big-city life that includes karaoke parlors, a dance club and two malls.

It's hard to have absolute control, however, over a workforce that reports to a private company rather than a company commander, he says.

The Americans work for Raytheon and Chenega Blackwater Solutions, who, respectively, run the missile radar and provide security at the base.

In the past year, a couple of workers were sent home as punishment. But Hunter has no direct control over their privilege to hold a license, as he does over soldiers.

At the Shariki police station, inspector Yoshifumi Nakagawa warmly welcomes Hunter and gives business cards printed in English and Japanese to the two members of his staff - Williams and translator Yuko Akita.

Nakagawa was happy to learn Hunter has an interpreter, his first even though the Army unit officially stood up on Sept. 26, 2006. Previously, the captain relied on a handful of the contractors who speak Japanese, or a few of Ohta's command staff who speak English.

The police official and the translator exchange cell phone numbers, then Nakagawa praises Hunter for participating in a recent community walk. It's a formal thank-you for two men who see each other regularly. Both take the same language exchange course on Fridays, and the group has dinner together once a month.

Ohta credits the Americans' involvement in the community with appeasing some of the fears first raised when the radar was built. "Because they participate in local events," he says through a translator, "now there are no objections."

The objections haven't quite gone away. A Japanese Ministry of Defense office, at Shariki city hall, is where the Defense Facilities Administration Bureau works as liaison between the community and the U.S. Army base, Hunter says. It's also where locals can go with concerns about the radar site.

In the past year, complaints have fallen off so much that the office has reduced its hours twice.

A couple of months ago, Hunter met with the bureau to hear about any recent complaints. One resident

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